NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A6542A
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the criminal procedure law, in relation to providing for
the release of certain grand jury proceeding materials on the basis of
enduring historical importance
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
The purpose of this bill is to create an exception to the secrecy of
grand jury proceedings by providing that any person may petition for the
release of records of grand jury proceedings on the ground of enduring
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1: Amends paragraph (a) of subdivision 4 of Criminal Procedure
Law section 190.25 by adding a new subparagraph (ii), which creates an
exception to the secrecy of grand jury proceedings by allowing any
person to petition for the release of grand jury records that are of
enduring historical significance. Subparagraph (ii) creates a rebuttable
presumption of enduring historical significance as that term is defined
in subparagraph (ii). Upon a finding of enduring Historical signif-
icance, a court shall release such grand jury records in a manner and
form as determined by the court.
Section 2 provides that the act takes effect immediately and shall apply
to such records created before, on or after such date.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORIGINAL AND AMENDED VERSION:
The amended version of this bill clarifies how grand jury records may be
released by the court based on enduring historical importance, and that
records of enduring historical importance includes records that are
forty rather than fifty years old
"One might well wonder why it has taken forty-five years for a compre-
hensive history of the Attica Prison uprising of 1971 to be written.
"Thompson, Heather Ann, Blood in the Water, 2016. "The answer is simple:
the most important details of this story have been deliberately kept
from the public. Literally thousands of boxes of documents related to
these events are sealed or next to impossible to access." (Introduction,
By any measure, the Attica uprising was one of the most historic events
in our nation's history. It seized the attention of the entire world
nearly half a century ago, and its effects on our criminal legal system
can still be felt today. For too long, however, the uprising and subse-
quent actions by the state of New York have been shrouded in secrecy.
The governor's office and agencies under his control hid the scope of
brutality visited upon correction officers and the incarcerated during
and after the "taking" of the prison by New York State Troopers. This
deception and brutality deserves the disinfectant of sunlight and this
bill will allow the people of this state to shed that light.
By using the "enduring historical significance" standard to access grand
jury records, this act would still adhere to the rationales of grand
jury secrecy ( prevention of flight by a defendant; protection of the
grand jurors from interference; prevention of subornation of perjury and
tampering with perspective witnesses; protection of an innocent accused
from unfounded accusations if, in fact, no indictment is returned; and
assurance to prospective witnesses that their testimony will be kept
secret so that they will be willing to testify freely). It would also
preserve the court's discretion by providing that the release of such
records be accomplished "in a manner and form as determined by the
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
This is a new bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:
This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply to such records
created before, on or after such date.